Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Campaign Succeeds in Pressuring P&G into Sourcing Sustainable Palm Oil

Procter and Gamble (P&G) has responded to public pressure and agreed to stop thier environmentally destructive palm oil sourcing practices. This is yet another story about how the dangers of irresponsible and unsustainable practices make a company vulnerable to public shaming campaigns that can prove very harmful to a firm's reputation. A total of 400,000 people emailed P&G to express their outrage at the company's harmful activities.

On April 8th, the Washington Post reported that P&G has agreed to purchase 100 percent of their palm oil products from sustainable sources by 2015 and 100 percent of their paper products from recycled or third-party certified sources by 2020. A P&G spokesman explained that the company is now committed to a new "No Deforestation policy" and it intends to provide full traceability for all the palm oil and derivatives it uses by the end of next year.

“P&G has also signed the Consumer Goods Forum (CGF) commitment to help ensure zero net deforestation by 2020,” the spokesman said.

This is a powerful victory that vindicates the efforts of individuals and organizations that are working to protect the forest habitats of orangutans, Sumatran tigers and other species in Indonesia. These efforts also work to preserve the livelihoods of people in local communities alongside protecting regional biodiversity.

While P&G has a sustainability strategy, a year long Greenpeace investigation revealed that some of P&G's suppliers, (Bumitama, BW Plantation, KLK and Musim Mas), were linked to environmentally destructive practices associated with unsustainable palm oil plantations.

Their investigation revealed that P&G bough almost half a million tons of palm oil in 2013 and less than 10 percent was sustainably sourced. Palm oil is a very common ingredient in many household consumer products ranging from shampoo to food. Greenpeace claims that palm oil production is the single biggest driver of deforestation in Indonesia.

A global Greenpeace campaign began exposing the contradictions in P&G's practices and advertising. The success of their campaign reiterates the fact that when you make marketing claims you had better make sure that you are not exposing yourself to allegations of hypocrisy.

P&G recently launched an emotional ad campaign that leveraged motherhood, however, Greenpeace exposed the ways in which Orangutans, tigers and other species where being decimated by the company's sourcing of unsustainable palm oil. Greenpeace investigations further revealed orangutan graveyards near the plantations, suggesting that these animals may have been slaughtered by workers.

To help drive the point home Greenpeace activists scaled P&G's Cincinnati offices and unfurled a huge banner. While the nine activists were subsequently arrested and charged with burglary and vandalism, the event generated a lot of unwanted publicity for P&G.

P&G has promised to go beyond Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) criteria, including no deforestation policies and no conversion of peatland as well as respecting the rights of local communities and protection of high value conservation areas.

While the agreement from P&G is a very positive step in the right direction, it does not cover wood pulp and it still leaves suppliers six more years to clear forests. Even certified sustainable palm oil is often criticized for not going far enough to protect habitats. While much work still remains, P&G now joins Unilever, Ferrero, L’Oreal, Delhaize, Kellogg, Colgate-Palmolive, Wilmar, GAR, Nesle, General Mills and Mars in their commitments to reduce deforestation in their supply chains.

Video - The Slaughter of Orangutans for Palm Oil
Palm Oil's Environmental Impacts: Solutions to Deforestation and Methane Emissions
Video - The Slaughter of Orangutans for Palm Oil
Proctor & Gamble Sustainability Journey

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